Forrest vs. The State of Ohio

After a near-fatal shooting, one dog joins the fight against Ohio's antiquated animal protection laws

A bull mastiff named Forrest is enjoying life at his new home in Solon, eagerly embracing his new family and unknowingly garnering fame across Ohio and the Internet.

A man named Raymone Clements, meanwhile, is langoring in federal custody following arraignment as a felon caught in possession of ammunition.

Their stories are intertwined - riddled with pain and malice and, toward the end of the tale, flashes of joy and cautious optimism.

The federal indictment against Clements was filed Jan. 16 and came as a surprise to those watching his case closely.

He had previously been scheduled for arraignment at the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas on charges of animal cruelty, unlawfully firing a weapon and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The county arraignment was dismissed once the feds swooped in, arrested the man once again and scheduled their own Jan. 17 arraignment. The animal cruelty charge was tossed out the window as well. That's merely a misdemeanor in Ohio, which places Forrest's story at the heart of a long-running struggle for more thorough animal protection laws in this state.

Robin Stone adopted Forrest after he was shot twice in a Cleveland Heights park and left for dead by Clements late last year. The longtime friend to all animals says Forrest is fitting in perfectly with her three other dogs and the ranch-style home she shares with Patti Harris. The timing was impeccable for her and the dog, she adds, but the intersection of the past and the future is unavoidable.

Clements' current charge carries a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Those are some nice numbers, many say, as the former county charges would have only netted Clements five years behind bars at most. Stone - and much of Forrest's blossoming Facebook following - can dig the math, but there's something amiss here for Ohio's animal protection advocates.

Forrest's role in the case, supporters argue, was sidelined when the feds moved in. As Stone says, it was Forrest alone who brought thrice-convicted felon Clements back into the eye of the justice system. It was Forrest's pain that brought a known felon's possession of guns and ammunition into the spotlight.

"It's bittersweet," Stone says of the ongoing story.

In the immediate sense, the story at hand begins at Forest Hill Park in Cleveland Heights on Nov. 25, 2012. Clements, a 42-year-old slouching hulk, walked Forrest into the park and chained the dog to a tree. He pulled out a gun and shot off four bullets, two of which hit Forrest in his jaw and chest. Clements, along with two accompanying and unidentified women, then left the park.

"He lay there dying," says Amy Beichler, executive director of the Public Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). She got a call about the incident the following morning and, mounting strength over her flu symptoms, dashed out the door to help Forrest out of the 30-degree weather and into a warmer future.

Cleveland Heights police arrested Clements Dec. 19 on misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty and firing a weapon unlawfully.

Clements' actions in the park that day followed a similarly reprehensible history. His previous felony convictions include the rape of two girls (ages 7 and 14) in 2006, drug trafficking in 2003 and aggravated robbery in 1991. The county went on to pursue an additional felonious charge of possessing weapons as a convicted felon.

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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